Game: Intellivision Lives!
System: Microsoft X-Box
Developer: Intellivision Productions
Publisher Crave Entertainment
I’ve been on an incredible retro kick as of late. All of my gaming-related purchases between mid-January and mid-February of this year have had some kind of retro connotation with them. Three classic Sega Genesis games. Konami Collectors Series on the GBA. An old Master System + games from fellow Kliq member Chuck Platt. Even Metroid: Zero Mission counts, since it contains the original Metroid as an unlock. And finally, this game: Intellivision Lives!
I can’t say that I’ve owned an Intellivision when I was a lad, but I certainly wish I did. I “started” with an Atari 2600 when I was under a year old (which my father gave away before I was old enough to appreciate it), and continued with the NES on my 9th birthday. So since I skipped this system through no fault of my own, I wanted to rectify this fact with the purchase of this compilation. I mean, it’s $20 for sixty games and hours upon hours of retro-gaming pleasure, right? What could go wrong?
What could go wrong, indeed. No sooner did I ask myself that question did I see just what exactly COULD go wrong in a retro-game collection. But what is wrong with the title, you ask? Find out in…
Being a compilation game, IL’s “story” is a hard thing to cover. There ARE, after all, over sixty games. At least two-thirds of them have a small story behind them, no matter how little space they took up in their instruction books. So there’s no way in HELL I’m going to go through and rate every single story individually. However, there’s another way to look at a “story” on this disc: the story of Mattel’s Intellivision system.
While not a “story” in the conventional sense, the Intellivision production team has gone out of their way to deliver a fairly complete history of the system. It’s told through the games, of which there are many. It’s told through the developers, who tell us their stories in movies. And finally, the story is told in an objective documentary covering the Intellivision’s birth, life, and eventual termination. Along the way, we hear the stories about how games came to be, the competition against the Atari 2600, and other odds and ends that give us a look at the console wars 20 years ago.
The story told here is something you don’t hear that often. I wouldn’t be surprised to see stories for the Nintendo, or the Genesis perhaps in another ten years. But for now, this is gaming history. Everyone should take part.
Let’s get one thing straight: if you bought this game for the graphics, than you really, really, REALLY need to have your head examined. This compilation has NO real emphasis on the graphics, only the nostalgia. Heck there’s even a disclaimer as the game is booting up explaining, “Do not adjust your set to fix the blocky graphics! They’re supposed to be like this!” I laughed my ass off for a solid 30 seconds when I read that initially.
So, back to the graphics. It really is unfair to compare them to modern day titles and give them a 2.0 rating because of it. Instead, I’ll look at them a bit differently by comparing them to Atari 2600 graphics. As said in the documentary movie, Intellivision cartridges were played at a much higher resolution than the Atari 2600 carts, and it shows. While still blocky and highly underdeveloped, there is much more detail. Character sprites are multi-colored in certain games, and in others there are animations that look ahead of their time. So in comparison with other games of the early 80s, they are amazing. Still, points DO have to be deducted for not using the X-Box hardware to its full extent.
Aside from the games, the menus to select them are organized very creatively. You are in a virtual pizza shack from the 1980s, complete with several Intellivision “arcade” cabinets. This should take back the older gamers to the days where simple games like Frogger and Donkey Kong could be found all over the country. The menu is easy to navigate, and is rendered very well. There are several arcade machines here, which contain the various games organized by type. Types like Arcade, Sports, Space, War/Sorcery, Children’s, and Unreleased. Selecting a game will give you access to instructions on how to play, production notes from the developers, and even the game’s original box.
Finally, the movies. The movies detailing the history of the Intellivision are filmed rather well, but look to be more CD quality than DVD quality. Still, that doesn’t effect the enjoyment when watching the documentaries.
Once again, it’s unfair to judge the sound in these games based upon modern X-Box titles. So, comparing the sound to Atari games again, it’s once again more advanced than its competitor. There is more sound variety in these games than the normal blips, beeps, and boops found in Atari 2600 games. Plus, several of these titles play their own music in the background. And for the record, Intellivision music is miles above Atari 2600 music.
Speaking of music, Intellivision Lives! takes a page from Activision Anthology and has modern day music playing in the background and during Intellivision games. (Handy for those who don’t have music) Tracks here are much more Intellivision related, containing ballads devoted to it, and even a megamix of music found in the games in the collection. Overall, the songs are catchy, yes, but don’t add TOO much to the games.
Space Game: Astrosmash
Okay, here’s the situation: you have over sixty games on one disc. The games come in all varieties, and can be enjoyed by a large range of people. The nostalgic factor is through the roof. In other words, you have one incredibly hot product.
Now lets say you arrange the controls such that most of the games are practically unplayable.
BINGO! You have Intellivision Lives!
For those who remember the Intellivision fondly, you’ll remember the controller comes with numerical keypad, along with twelve extra buttons to worry about. Needless to say, mapping these buttons to the X-Box controller is practically impossible. The game tries to compensate for this, but doesn’t do much of a good job with it.
First, some of the numbers are mapped to the face buttons in certain cases. The problem with that is that I never know which button corresponds to which number. So I end up pressing all sorts of buttons and not get anywhere as a result.
Secondly, the numbers are supposedly mapped to directions on the right analogue stick. Holding the stick in a certain direction will make a number, or so the manual says. Now unless the right stick on my controller is BROKEN, I haven’t gotten this option to work. At all. So that’s another option down the drain.
Finally, if you can’t get anything else to work, you can call up a replica of the numerical pad on the screen by pressing the Back button, and manually selecting your number. So far, this is the best solution to the button-mapping problem, except for the one fact that the mock-up takes up a third of the screen while you’re using it. So, if you’re in the middle of a crucial situation and using the on-screen pad, you’d be obstructing your vision and possibly leading yourself to even MORE disastrous situations.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of CONTROL, you’re going to need more than one in order to half the games on the list. On the menus where you select your game, you’ll have 1-P and 2-P icons displayed next to each game, depending on how many people can play. About 12 of the 60+ titles REQUIRE two controllers plugged in, and an additional 20 need to be played with two players in order to be enjoyed correctly. Sure you can play by yourself, but the lifeless second player on the right side of the screen kinda gets annoying after a while. So, yourself leave you with about half the games that you can actually enjoy alone. And with THAT, about 20 of THESE games have the horrible control issues described about. And THAT leaves you with 10 or less games that you can simply play with simple control schemes.
That’s right, people. Less than 10 games out of more than 60 are easily playable. All others have controller issues, either 1-P or 2-P related.
Something is definitely not right here if that is the case.
Now what on EARTH would keep people like me playing a game with shoddy controls and tens of unplayable games without hundreds of rounds of electroshock therapy? Believe it or not, there ARE some redeeming features that can make the most hardcore Intellivision loyalists come back for seconds.
As stated above, there ARE games that don’t have as many control problems. Game like Astrosmash, Thunder Castle, SNAFU, Nightstalker, and several others are emulated quite well, considering there aren’t as many buttons to press. In fact, these games can get quite addicting. VERY addicting. I can site Astrosmash in particular as a game I love to play. The simplest controls lead to the most fun. But still, that doesn’t excuse over 75% of the rest of the games to suffer because of control issues.
Aside from the actual games, there are several extras you can unlock. Three “unreleased” games fall into this category, as well as some classic Intellivision commercials. Taking a page out of Activision Anthology’s book, you’ll need to complete certain goals in games marked by a red dot in order to unlock them. These challenges vary from getting over 20,000 points in Astrosmash to finishing a track under five minutes in Auto Racing. But some problems arise from this. Some game tasks seem impossible to complete due to the controls, while other tasks are WAY to easy. Also, when you complete a task, you have NO IDEA what you unlocked. The game certainly doesn’t tell you, as you go on a scavenger hunt through the menus to see what exactly you obtained.
To be quite honest, the extras simply aren’t as appealing as those found in Activision Anthology. There are only three commercials, and the “unreleased” games aren’t as nice as I thought they’d be. So, if you come back to the game, it’ll be to play those handful of titles that DO work on the X-Box controller.
When looking at “balance” in this case, we need to look at what games made the list as supposed to the difficulties of each one. The good news is that there are a nice variety of titles to choose from. And each one is categorized accordingly into what genre it falls into. But therein lies the catch: the categories are TOO finite. There are JUST space games, and JUST children’s games, and JUST sports games, and JUST gambling games. There’s hardly anything in between to transition players from one section to the next. Some people will find themselves sticking to one section without giving the other titles a second look.
As far as the overall difficulty goes, you can go one of two ways. Games are either easy given a simple control scheme, or mind numbingly HARD. If the game was hard back in the 80’s, it’s become even harder because of the control.
Sports Game: Baseball
If you’re looking for originality in a compilation game, heck, ANY compilation game, you’re not going to find it. The games you find on here are released just as they were on the original Intellivision, with hardly ANY adjustments made to the graphics, sound, and so on if any.
The game concepts were original for their time, and you can set options to play the games in weird ways (like reversed and upside down), but that’s all you’re going to find here. Lets face it. The games are OLD. There’s no denying it.
As said above, the handful of titles that DO work can be very fun, and can be played for hours upon hours in pure retro-gaming bliss. In fact, it almost makes up for the fact that the other 50 have been rendered useless. Astrosmash is probably the most fun out of all the games here, considering it has a simple formula and that you don’t have to figure out a lot to have fun.
Its when you get out of the realm of playable titles that the game goes from addicting to magnetically repelling. Its horribly frustrating going through 20 STRAIGHT GAMES filled with bad controls and little replay value before coming to one I could have fun with. It’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back, but hopefully, you’ll be able to save an hour of yours by concentrating on the GOOD games.
It’s obvious that the target consumers for this compilation are the Intellivision fans of old. Considering all the historical aspects put in the game, including documentaries, production notes, commercials, and talks with the game developers, its bound to take the fans back down memory lane. And for the retro buff that never owned an Intellivision before, there’s enough here to get him/her caught up to appreciate it. Other than that, it’s a game that will not be on everyone’s wishlist.
Appeal Factor: 6/10
Sports Game: Hockey
Now remember earlier when I said there was an “unreleased” category? Yes, it’s true. There are six items that have never seen the light of day when the Intellivision was thriving. There’s an Intellivision tech demo, a children’s voice game called “Magic Carousel”, and others. There are also three “exclusive” unreleased titles that can only be played on the X-Box version of the game.
And these titles are different than the “exclusive” unreleased games for the PS2 version.
I don’t know about you, but something about this ticks me off something fierce. They decided to put different stuff on different versions of the game, leaving certain games inaccessible to some. And in order to experience the ones you can’t play, you have to shell out ANOTHER $20 just satisfy your curiosity. And this is if you have both systems in the first place.
I swear, this is like Soul Calibur II all over again. Each system gets the same game, but something VERY different in each one to cue up jealousy in a gamer, and makes them shell out money for the other versions just to have a “complete” collection. Sorry developers, but I see your little ploy. And you’re not squeezing another dime from me, even if my curiosity is a bit peeked.
Appeal Factor: 6/10
TOTAL: 49/100 (Reviewer’s Tilt: 50/100)